Like a Baroque jewelry box, the eastern region of Hungary is home to a number of unique treasures, natural and man-made, above and below ground alike. Thanks to its pleasant subalpine climate, the region is a tourist paradise the whole year-round. While you’re in this region of Hungary, make sure you take a dip in the genuine local Turkish baths, or even in pools located in natural caverns. The region is also well-known for its historic wine cellars, where you can treat yourself to some excellent Hungarian wines.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Celebrated as one of the most beautiful European towns, Eger is only an hour and a half’s drive from Budapest. You can roam the peaceful narrow streets in the heart of this Baroque town, listen to an organ concert in its Basilica (the second largest church in Hungary), and discover the wonders of the imposing Archbishop’s Palace located here.
Make sure to “invade” the Eger Castle, the fortress where the Hungarian defenders broke the Turkish siege in 1552, their heroism forever ensuring them a place in our history books. You can also climb the Eger Minaret for a truly breathtaking view from the top, this monument is the northernmost legacy of the Ottoman Empire.
The folk art of the Matyó community was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and you can find it in the Hadas district of Mezőkövesd, a town near Eger. The place is an organic open-air museum, enticing visitors with its 100-150-year-old houses, which serve as museum houses and artistic workshops.
No other country on Earth can offer you medicinal water of the outstanding quality and composition than the reserves available in Hungary. In this region, you can enjoy the benign healing properties of these waters all year round. When visiting the original Turkish Baths in Eger built in the 1600s, you should also try a traditional Hammam massage. We promise you will feel rejuvenated from head to toe!
While visiting Eger, you simply must taste the iconic red and white wines of this historic wine region, such as the famous Egri Bikavér, Egri Leányka, and the Egri Csillag. The best wine cellars in the region can be found around Eger, Egerszalók, Noszvaj, Szomolya, and Ostoros. You can also take an exciting guided tour of the historic Archbishop’s Cellar – a maze-like subterranean city. A light 15-20-minute walk takes you from the center of Eger to the Szépasszony Valley (Valley of the Beautiful Woman), where you can explore and enjoy the regional wines in almost 200 wine cellars carved into the volcanic rock.
In Miskolc, the region’s largest city, you can see 7 million-year-old petrified swamp cypresses in the Pannon Sea Museum, as well as the 52-ft iconostasis of the local Greek Orthodox church, the largest in Central Europe. Visitors can get a hands-on experience of how life in the Middle Ages had been like in the Castle of Diósgyőr located nearby, also known as the Queens’ Castle. You can take the narrow-gauge forest train from Diósgyőr to the Bükk mountains and their famed health resort, Lillafüred, home of the Anna travertine (freshwater limestone) cave: one of only six such caves known in the entire world. You can take a ride on the Lillafüred chairlift, and in Miskolc, you can explore the St. Stephen stalactite cave, famed for its beautiful dripstone structures.
The Miskolctapolca Cave Bath, located in the tourist region of Miskolc, is unique in all of Europe. Its more than several hundred-thousand-year-old natural cave passages hide karst baths, their naturally warm water coming from the very heart of the mountain itself. At the Demjén Cascade Cave Baths, the experience is made even more exciting by giant waterslides built into the mountain. The terraced limestone structure (the so-called “salt hill”) of the Saliris Resort in Egerszalók is also extremely unique, with only two other similar structures known in the entire world. Bathing in the Zsóry Thermal Bath and Spa effectively cures rheumatic diseases and joint disorders.
As long as you’re in Miskolc, you should not pass up the opportunity to explore the Avas Hill in the close vicinity of the heart of the city. It is home to 900 cellars and wine houses, many of them 300-400 years old. In February, you can also participate in the Kocsonya Farsang (Aspic Festival), dedicated to the iconic dish of Miskolc, aspic (kocsonya in Hungarian).
Louis XV of France called the Aszú wine of Tokaj “Wine of Kings, King of Wines” (“Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum”). If you enjoy good wine and creative cuisine, you simply must visit this region called Tokaj-Hegyalja in North-East Hungary! Apart from exploring the century-old wineries and wine cellars, you can also go hiking in the rugged wilderness of the nearby Zemplén Mountains. Nature trails, rock climbing spots, and ancient castles provide excellent opportunities for active relaxation.
Known as Tokay in many places, the Aszú wine of Tokaj is considered one of the most unique wines in the world. Its birthplace is the legendary wine region in North-East Hungary, boasting centuries of viniculture and traditions. In 2002, UNESCO honored the region by declaring it a World Heritage Site.
Tokaj has also been the world’s first closed wine production district since 1737. Composed of 27 settlements, this historic wine region’s volcanic soil, its unique microclimate, its favorable sloping hills, the autumn mist above the Bodrog and Tisza rivers, and the noble rot on the walls of the wine cellars carved into the rhyolitic tuff rock all play a role in ensuring that the Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes of this region make for excellent, exciting white wines.
Many of the wineries and wine cellars are open to visitors. You can explore them by yourself if you like, or with professional guidance – often you can even have the proprietor as your guide! You can get around on foot or by bicycle but some locations even offer Segway or SUV tours. The wineries, wine houses, and restaurants of the region all invite you to participate in the premium wine tastings, wine dinners, and cheerful picnics that are special in the region. Experts of new wave cuisine have also been coming to Tokaj-Hegyalja in ever greater numbers, to places like Mád, Tarcal, Tállya, and Encs. The creative meals are all made using fresh home-grown ingredients. Every year, the Tokaj-Hegyalja Market is a concentrated treasure trove of unique products made by local artisans. Located in the town of Tokaj, the World Heritage Wine Museum allows visitors an insight into the history and winemaking processes of the region through an interactive exhibition.
While visiting the region, you can lodge in cozy little village houses. These charming, traditional homes still use tile stoves for heating and cook with beehive ovens. If you prefer more luxurious accommodation, however, you will find quality hotels – even some five-star ones – in the area.
This region of Hungary is not only about wine. You can make the 93-mile long pilgrimage known as the “Footsteps of the Wonder Rabbis” through 10 settlements, exploring the Jewish memorial and heritage sites of Tokaj-Hegyalja.
In the nearby Zemplén Mountains, you can hike through one of the largest virgin forests in Hungary, finding several castle ruins, springs, and rock climbing spots along the way. You can explore the castles and forts of Regéc, Füzér, Sárospatak, and Füzérradvány, which remain awe-inspiring to this day, or you can take a trip to the Zemplén Adventure Park and try the longest bobsled and chairlift tracks in the country. You can also take a ride on the mile-long extreme zipline course, where you can reach speeds of over 50 mph. In the winter, the mountain Adventure Park offers opportunities for skiing and ice-skating.
While in the region, it is definitely worth taking a trip to see one of the country’s most beautiful natural wonders, the mine lake of Megyer Mountain. The lake was formed among the rocks of a former millstone mine that had been closed down at the beginning of the 20th century. This spot is among Hungary’s most stunning and most special destinations, with an amazing sight from the rock cliffs as high as 230 feet.
Located in the vicinity of Nyíregyháza, the village of Máriapócs is a major pilgrimage site for the followers of the Marian devotion of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. However, the village’s deep spiritual atmosphere tends to make a great impression even on non-religious visitors. Pilgrims have been coming to Máriapócs to pray to be cured of their physical and mental problems and to pay tribute to the Mother of God since the late 17th century when a painting of Mary in the local church was noted to miraculously shed tears. Neighboring the village’s richly ornate Orthodox Catholic church, the Basilian monastery is the only one of its kind in Hungary. Being a key site of the Marian Pilgrimage Route going across Central Europe, this national shrine of Hungary was even visited by Pope John Paul II in 1991.